Idea Management Platform: Happy Beginning of the Innovation Demise

Why so harsh? Let's go over the following scenario. A company decides to innovate and listen to its employees (after telling them to innovate), and the first thing it does is to launch an idea management platform (IMP) to crowdsource great insights.This glorious beginning proudly announced by the executive sponsors is met with hype and influx of ideas. Sometime later the ideas are still there, the hype has flattened and 'real results' are yet to be seen.

I witnessed the above story three times in the large companies whose lack of knowledge in growing their innovation practice leaves room for IMP companies to conveniently place their 'innovation solution' to guarantee quick innovation jump start. I'm hoping that by writing this, the folks tasked with innovation will think twice before jumping into setting up a crowdsourcing platform as a very first step. Otherwise it's like jump-starting a car without a driver and no destination in mind. Don't get me wrong, I am a strong proponent of the crowdsourcing engine; I just don't think it should come first. I also think the companies that sell these idea platforms sometimes either purposely ignore the big picture or lack the maturity in presenting a comprehensive enterprise-level innovation strategy…thus end up pushing their product (can't blame them if it sells).

Given the job, I would first craft an overall innovation vision followed by a strategy that includes People, Process, and yes, the Idea Management Platform. These three P's are very much interdependent and need to be addressed with equal diligence. Let's go over the relationship between them. If you launch the idea management platform for your company or department the initial curiosity will attract the people hungry for change, but that's only half of the P in people. The other half are the people who will lead, moderate, and grow these thoughts, hunches, and ideas to a level where it is clear whether or not to scale them into projects and products. This involves creativity techniques and a process that the idea analysts can use to quickly prototype, assess the results, and learn from the experience. Here I would strongly recommend Michael Michalko's (Thinkertoys) and Roger von Oech's creativity repertoire and Design Thinking (Human-Centered Design) as a first half of the process for solving the right challenges in the most efficient way. The second part of the process 'P' is the lifecycle of the idea. When they arrive, they need to go through a series of stages (growth and assessment) that will dictate their future.

Finally, the IMP acts as a catalyst for the ideas in motion. Although very useful in multiple aspects of optimizing and accelerating your crowdsourcing efforts, the IMP is not a prerequisite. What you cannot get by without is the People and the Process. The emphasis here is on the dedicated collaborative innovation team that does the idea gardening with the right innovation vision and strategy. Once you have these two P’s in place, it may be time to look into selecting the right Ideation Platform.

An IMPis a mythological being similar to a fairy or goblin, frequently described in folklore and superstition. The word may perhaps derive from the term ympe, used to denote a young grafted tree.

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